In yesterday’s post I mentioned that the Solar Impulse project was a featured part of the 2010 Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) World Symposium on Electric Aircraft. The symposium was one of the many aviation activities happening during that year’s EAA AirVenture, a weeklong gathering of aviation enthusiasts from around the world.
AirVenture happens every summer in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA, and it’s a great example of an event with huge impact that can help build a regional culture. It happens to be going on as I write this post, with this year’s event running July 25 – 31. If you’re in the Midwest and enjoy any aspect of aircraft, other than just flying on commercial aircraft as a passenger, you should drop into Oshkosh this week while the airshow is on. If you can’t make it this year, consider attending in 2017.
If you don’t live in the Midwest, but have your own plane, consider flying to Oshkosh next year. In 2015 over 10,000 aircraft flew in for AirVenture. Many owners camp right next to their plane.
Speaking of events wrangling, how’d you like to coordinate AirVenture? The event runs for a week, has 10,000 aircraft flying through the skies above your event, has an attendance of over 500,000, has visitor from 80 countries (try getting translators for all those in a small city in NE Wisconsin!), and has most of the activities run by or coordinated by 5400 volunteers (2015 statistics).
Electric Aircraft Symposium
I was involved with AirVenture for a number of years when I worked for EAA on aviation innovation. The absolute best part of that job was the electric aircraft symposiums, especially the fantastically interesting people who were involved with all aspects of electric aircraft.
Other Memorable Moments At AirVenture
I met so many great people and saw so many cool aviation displays, it’s hard to pick which experiences rank next after the electric aircraft symposiums from past AirVentures. The most memorable ones that come immediately to mind are:
- Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This humongous commercial airliner had just recently gone into production and AirVenture was one of the first places it was flown in public. One of the Boeing test pilots was an EAA member, so that probably helped. You had to be there to believe it, but this lumbering monstrosity looked like an aerobatic jet when the pilot took it up for a demonstration flight. He was doing maneuvers that would have been impressive for a single-passenger jet. I hope I never fly on a jet that climbs as steeply, dives as quickly, or banks as sharply as that test pilot did with the 787.
- Martin Jetpack. The Martin Jetpack made a totally unexpected public demonstration one of the years I was at AirVenture. A huge crowd gathered when the word spread about a working jetpack. It made chills run up and down my back watching it take off and fly around the demo area. Because they didn’t have FAA clearances yet, the ground crew guys had to hold the jetpack down while the pilot stayed only a few feet off the ground (see inset picture below of the white jetpack). The best thing about the jetpack was talking with Glenn Martin, the New Zealander who spent over twenty years designing, building and testing various versions of the “personal aircraft.” The red one below is their current design. According to their website, they even have a “golfcart jetpack” now!
- Red Bull Aerobatic Helicopter. This helicopter did absolutely incredible and unbelievable flying stunts. He went straight up. He went straight down. He even flew upside down. I have no idea why that helicopter didn’t drop out of the sky. Amazing, but scary!
If you’ve never been to AirVenture, give it a try. You don’t have to go every year for thirty or more years in a row like some dedicated enthusiasts have, camping out for a week or two. Just give it a try one year — it will be a memory you’ll have for the rest of your life! 🙂
In closing, below is an aerial view of the main square on a day during AirVenture 2010.